Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 244: The Price
Tang Yibu didn’t stay on the ground for long. A group of armed aircraft reacted and rushed towards the two of them.
The spare body of the Mainbrain was close to a large cube with a side length of half a meter and was equipped with many auxiliary flight devices on the outside. Tang Yibu tore them off like peeling an orange. Without the entangled hoses and devices, the Mainbrain was simply a bare black cube. Tang Yibu held the Mainbrain’s body with both arms while Ruan Xian clung to his neck tightly with one arm while the other arm was wrapped around π, who was upside down.
The two half-naked men in ragged clothes broke through the air and quickly ran towards the edge of the desert. Many aircraft chased closely behind them, but Tang Yibu’s speed was too fast to track. Not even a bullet could match his speed.
In a rare moment, the Mainbrain was silent.
…It seemed to have made another error in judgment.
Tang Yibu glanced at it sympathetically. Not long ago, he had also felt tangled…
That night, on the bumpy road, they had climbed onto the roof of the car and perfected a plan under the starry sky while letting π drive them slowly.
[Yibu, I have an idea.] Ruan Xian looked at the sky.
[I’ll see how you react first. If you were the Mainbrain and you were attacked by us at close range, how would you speculate?]
[NUL-00 is trying to attack and erase it, while Professor Ruan wants to seize control of the “body” of the Mainbrain to gain more advantages before the official war… The former is tantamount to hitting a stone with an egg. From any point of view, it’s impossible for me to kill it empty-handed.] Tang Yibu sucked on coconut water through a straw. Before going deep into the desert, they had stumbled upon a grove of coconut trees near the sea, so he had picked a lot.
[What else is possible?]
[I can’t think of anything else.] Tang Yibu sucked hard, then deflated his check and broke open the coconut with his bare hands. [We’re bound to be injured in this operation, so it’s impossible not to seek benefits.]
[The Mainbrain wants to destroy you and get your program—MUL-01 has an absolute advantage, so this is the most reasonable approach. It will not give up its own initiative voluntarily. One mountain cannot tolerate two tigers*. If you want to ensure a stable survival, you must kill it first… At least in its view, you’re cooperating with Professor Ruan for this purpose.]
*(一山不容二虎) Idiom referring to it’s incompatible for two strong people to be in the same place.
[In theory, this is the case.]
[But it’s Professor Ruan who “must” erase the Mainbrain. This is their war, not ours.]
Tang Yibu held the straw and thought for a few seconds. [We don’t need to kill it? But this isn’t something we can decide unilaterally. The Mainbrain has an absolute advantage. It’s impossible… Oh!]
[Figured it out?]
[Nn.] Tang Yibu curved his eyes. [Just take away its combat power advantage. I’m not interested in its programs and data, and there’s no reason why it must disappear. After all, no matter which way I look at it, I’m superior to it.]
After speaking, he deliberately paused and glanced at Ruan Xian. However, his Mr. Ruan just stretched out a hand and was playing with his hair that was blown by the wind.
[If we can negotiate on equal footing, I can think of a solution to the problem. The question is, do we have the conditions to “negotiate on an equal footing with it”—] Tang Yibu handed half the coconut to Ruan Xian.
[Yes.] Ruan Xian gladly took it. [In this regard, I have had some successful experience. Remember our first negotiation?]
[Remember. I thought you would attack me, but you tried your best and just gave me a healing bullet to prove yourself… I see, Mr. Ruan.]
[You and the Mainbrain are actually very similar, in terms of accepting death.] Ruan Xian scraped out a piece of pulp with a small knife. He stabbed it with the tip of the knife and fed Tang Yibu a bite.
[…You will definitely choose the “worst” possibility to defend.]
Facts had proven that Mr. Ruan was right. Tang Yibu patted the spare body of the Mainbrain in his arms and cocked the corner of his mouth.
Whether it was the Mainbrain or Zhuo Muran, neither of them took the enemy lightly. They defended according to the “assassination” specification. After discovering there were indeed no lethal weapons on their side, they changed their aim to “plunder”.
MUL-01 was full of war with Professor Ruan.
Tang Yibu ran away while patting it compassionately.
“Stop.” The side of the cube that was being patted suddenly showed large characters. MUL-01 obviously didn’t like this kind of touch.
Tang Yibu’s interest suddenly rose. On the way to the woodland, the sound of patting and tapping was incessant. Tang Yibu ran faster as he beat the Mainbrain like a drum.
Afraid that Tang Yibu would kill the Mainbrain in retaliation, the large aircraft that were too inconvenient to fly didn’t chase too far. The rest of the small aircraft continued trying to track them. Among the countless small aircraft, one figure was particularly eye-catching—Zhuo Muran was wearing a broken exoskeleton while chasing them closely.
Finally, Tang Yibu ran away from the desert and into a thunderstorm. It appeared in the position they predicted. The occasional bolt of lightning isolated most of their pursuers. Zhuo Muran instructed the aircraft to surround the area of the thunderstorm while he continued to give chase.
This gave Tang Yibu a lot of rest time.
The two hid under a few wet rocks. Their view was filled with dark brown and lead gray. The thunderstorm here was particularly dense. The rumbling thunder was accompanied by the sound of hissing electric current that was drowned out by the howling wind.
Tang Yibu laid the Mainbrain on a pile of gravel and circled his wrist. π woke up in a daze and let out a rattle as it bit the corner of the Mainbrain—unfortunately, the cube was made with the same material as the calculation cubes. Despite gnawing for a while, the iron bead couldn’t even bite off a small piece of debris.
Without the flight device, the Mainbrain couldn’t move, so it had to endure the biting.
“I don’t understand.” It quickly displayed a line of text. “The thunderstorm will stop, and Zhuo Muran will find you. In your current condition, you have no way to destroy me, and I will soon be able to restore everything to its original state as soon as I reach my alternate body.”
“During this period, I will at most temporarily stop the management of the cities, but this part can be continued by the Order Supervisors. No matter where you go, Zhuo Muran and his subordinates will never stop tracking, nor will they let you come into contact with anyone on Professor Ruan’s side. You can’t destroy me and can’t contact Professor Ruan. Unless you continue this meaningless escape…”
“Can’t we?” Tang Yibu said.
The Mainbrain was still desperately speculating about their purpose. When Tang Yibu said such a line, it fell silent again.
“I don’t understand.” Half a minute later, it repeated again.
“You see, with the abilities of Mr. Ruan and I, we can continue to escape with you. Of course, we can’t take much advantage of it, but without your control, guess what the rebels will do?”
Tang Yibu seemed dissatisfied with the dry conversation he was having with the cube. He pulled out the lid that was engraved with a smiley face, hung it on the cube, and then nodded with satisfaction. Ruan Xian turned his head, trying to hold back the urge to laugh.
“…This approach is not good for you or me. You’re similar to me. Professor Ruan is only temporarily cooperating with you. Once he gains the dominant position again, he will not allow you to exist.”
The Mainbrain ignored the lid of the can that was hanging on its body and started displaying its sentences faster.
“And this ‘Ruan Xian’ by your side. His mental condition isn’t healthy. Your joint actions will only be a threat to a normal society. He will not accept you…”
“That’s why we want to ‘talk about cooperation’ with you alone.” Ruan Xian spoke up when he saw those words. “We’ve already shown our sincerity—if we wanted to hurt you to the greatest extent, Yibu wouldn’t have come after you. He just needed to take your main body.”
The text on the cube disappeared, and its surface temperature slightly rose. MUL-01 seemed to be thinking.
“Take a step back. It’s tiring to take you and continue to escape day and night. Adults need to live an adult life, so we might as well be rational and do something that benefits both sides—”
Before he could speak the stone over his head crashed to pieces. Zhuo Muran stood quietly in the rain, looking at them coldly.
“Cooperation,” he hissed.” Forcing MUL-01 to transfer its system and making us chase you like monkeys just to ‘talk about cooperation’?”
Tang Yibu clamped Ruan Xian with one hand and hooked the Mainbrain with the other as he jumped back. π bit a corner of the cube tightly, and almost slipped off because of the rain.
Zhuo Muran didn’t attack immediately. He obviously eavesdropped from a distance for a while. The expression on his face was hard to make out, but it could be seen that it was unpleasant, but there was no panic in it; only indifference and gloom.
“Abandoning MUL-01’s body was your stupidest move, NUL-00. This Ruan Xian’s statement isn’t true at all. The conditions are so different that ‘sincerity’ isn’t even half as useful. Now, immediately hand over MUL-01. Or else…”
Zhuo Muran laughed. Ruan Xian had never seen him laugh like that. It wasn’t a normal laugh with a sense of calmness like a martyr.
“When I was fighting you, I had already guessed a certain possibility,” he said. “There’s a gap between my guess and reality. Fortunately, the gap wasn’t large and emergency measures can still be used.”
Emergency measures? Ruan Xian frowned.
“I respect Professor Ruan as an opponent, but I have to say that his resistance is like a mantis trying to stop a car*. It can’t change direction with the times… Before, I decided the Mainbrain didn’t need to sacrifice too much for him. We can just slowly strangle them.”
*(螳臂当车) Idiom referring to something that cannot be done by force and is bound to fail.
Zhou Muran raised the muzzle of his gun. The rain haloed the blood on his body, sliding it down the tattered exoskeleton. Numerous aircraft were floating around him with all their guns pointed at Tang Yibu in unison.
“However, it’s a pity that now it seems that the two of you do have the ability to run around with MUL-01 and delay our affairs. This time, Professor Ruan chose a very useful tool. You seized the body as planned and now the war will escalate. Even if he doesn’t run out to negotiate himself, he will still be able to reap the benefits.”
“He crossed the line. He shouldn’t use a dangerous person like you to usurp the rules.” Zhuo Muran’s eyes lit up uncomfortably. “Now, I’ll give you a chance to redeem…”
“We—” As soon as Tang Yibu wanted to open his mouth, Ruan Xian slapped it shut. Ruan Xian nodded and motioned for the other party to continue.
“If you insist on continuing this stupid negotiation, I will restart all the petri dishes.”
Zhuo Muran glanced in the direction of the Mainbrain and moved his fingers.
“R-α and R-β had reserved a considerable number of viruses for us. Combined with the instructions given to the machines, it’s enough to kill everyone outside the dead wall. The Mainbrain contains all human genetic information and can restart everything whenever it wants.”
“The Order Supervisors will also die.” Ruan Xian narrowed his eyes.
“Yes, all biological ‘humans’ will disappear. Only semi-transformed people like you and me, mechanical life, and pure machines will be left in the world—although the lost energy and data will take thousands of years to recover, in this way, Professor Ruan will inevitably be unable to continue, and not only will you not be able to gain an advantage, you’ll lose everything and will also be responsible for the lives of these 30 million people.”
He had killed many people and wiped out countless petri dishes. Zhuo Muran clenched his fists tightly. There could only be one leader in his world, and he was willing to do anything for it.
“Now, give back the Mainbrain, and there will be a conventional ‘war’. There is still time to control the losses within the range that you and I can bear. Everything has rules and restrictions, NUL-00. There’s always a price for messing around.”
It was too greedy. It was just appropriating MUL-01’s body and escalating the war. The state of affairs was still under the control of the Mainbrain, but since the two of them gave up the fat in their mouths and chose to threaten and negotiate, the benefits they sought must be more than “one body”. Not to mention that there was also an eyeing Professor Ruan on the side.
The Mainbrain didn’t reject his application. Zhuo Muran could still turn things around. The balance of the war must be maintained. Zhuo Muran slowly exhaled.
The author has something to say:
Zhuo: You play according to the rules, or everyone will die together. Anyway, you can’t win.
Tang: Hesitating to talk.
Ruan: Mysterious smile (?